A ferry service has ran across the Mersey from Seacombe, the
narrowest crossing point of the river, since the earliest
recording in the Domesday Book of 1086. Some time after in
1150, the Benedictine Priory at Birkenhead was established
which took some of the finance away form the Seacombe
crossing and allowed greater choice is crossing. In this period
the River Mersey was considerably wider with sand dunes and
marshes to the north .
Several centuries later the ferry service was granted Royal
Charter status and the traffic increased on the crossing. The
Chester Indictments record criminal activities on the Mersey
ferries in the 14th and early 15th centuries including in 1355
when Richard, son of Simon de Becheton, was murdered on
the ferry; the murderers escaped and took refuge at Shotwick.
In 1365, it was recorded that there were four ferryboats
operating without a licence, from Bromborough and Eastham
who were subsequently fined for there activities. In 1414,
William de Stanley, the servant of John Talbot, later Earl of
Shrewsbury, was on the ferry between Birkenhead and
Liverpool when around 200 men assaulted him, and stole his
bay horse valued at £5 (around £3000 in todays money, a bow
and 14 arrows valued at 3s 4d (£95 today) and a barge valued
at £10 (£5700 today). The thieves were eventually found and
fined but the criminal activities on the ferry crossing continued
for many years after.
In 1853 Gawthrop described the ferry to Seacombe as nearly straight across the river, with the length of the sail as 1200 yards
(just over one kilometre).
"Seacombe is a pleasant little village. There is a good hotel, with large gardens and pleasure grounds. The contrivance for landing
passengers is ingenious…. To the south of the ferry is a pleasant row of houses facing the river''.
In 1861 the Wallasey Local Board took over the ferry services at Seacombe, Egremont and New Brighton. The last private
owners of the Seacombe ferry were the Coulborn Brothers who sold out their rights in 1863 to Wallasey Council under the
Wallasey Improvement Act.
Until the establishment of the Mersey Railway in 1886, the ferries were the only means of crossing the river and so all of the
routes were being heavily used at that time especially because of the local industry. All of the ferry routes were owned by
private interests before coming under municipal ownership in the mid 19th century. The Woodside ferry was taken over by the
Birkenhead Commissioners in 1858 and, in 1861, the Wallasey Local Board took over the ferry services at Seacombe, Egremont
and New Brighton.
When the Queensway Road Tunnel opened in 1934 the ferry service from Seacombe lost two million passengers because people
started to use the new tunnel rather than the ferry. A ferry service still runs between Seacombe on the north side of Birkenhead
Dock and Liverpool.
Seacombe Ferry Hotel
Built in 1871 the Seacombe ferry hotel stood on a purpose built elevated plot over looking the River Mersey. The building was modest in looks but
boasted four storeys and was built from simple dark brick. The hotel sits today near the landing stage and still operates as an inn.
The following are a selection of photographs i found whilst browsing the internet: